One of the great delights of being a horticulturist here in the summer at RHS Garden Rosemoor, is that while going about our daily duties in the many and varied garden areas, we are constantly surrounded by nature. A particular highlight for me – and often a thrill for our visitors – is the enormous array of bees and butterflies going about their business, dotting from flower to flower.
Routinely seen around the garden are both solitary bees such as the leafcutter bee and social bees such as the Honey Bee and the many different species of bumblebees. Butterfly species include: peacock, red admiral, cabbage white and fritillary.
Bees and Butterflies are in decline, but there are some simple ways of attracting them to your garden, for instance by planting nectar- and pollen-rich flowers.
Working in the Spiral and Hot Gardens, it is easy to spot the many plants and flowers that are popular with our pollinators. Here’s my list of some of the most popular:
Monarda 'Prärienacht'. With the common name of Bee Balm, it is easy to imagine why it is top of my list. It will grow in most well-drained, moist soils, enjoys the sunshine, grows to 90cm tall and has lilac-purple flowers with brownish-red bracts in mid-summer and early autumn.
Buddleja davidii [Nanho Purple] = 'Monum' AGM. Again, with the common name of Butterfly Bush it is a must for this particular list. This is a more compact shrub, growing to around 2m, so will suit smaller gardens. It will grow in most well-drained, moist soils and also enjoys the sunshine. It has lance-shaped leaves and fragrant, light purple flowers in dense cylindrical panicles in summer and autumn.
Ageratina ligustrina. One of the most fragrant shrubs on a sunny day in the Spiral Garden, with descriptions of the scent varying from cheap soap to expensive perfume! One thing that is clear, though, is the way it attract insects, becoming a buzzing mass when in flower. It is a compact, medium-sized evergreen shrub, with light green, ovate leaves and large flat heads of small white fragrant flowers. It needs a sheltered, sunny site with moist soil.
Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' AGM. Catmint is a garden favourite with many – it’s aromatic and again, a big draw for pollinators. This has attractive colouring, the flowers being a deep blue-mauve, and the leaves silvery and aromatic. It is compact and comes into flower in early summer – it will continue into autumn if flushes are deadheaded. It will grow in most conditions and is very hardy.